Earlier this month RSPB Scotland announced that four of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moors (see here).
We then highlighted how two of those four missing hen harriers (Margot & Stelmaria) had ‘disappeared’ inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here).
[RPUK map showing approximate last known locations of hen harriers Margot & Stelmaria]
Yesterday we looked at the last known location of hen harrier Margot, which was on a grouse shooting estate that’s either a member of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership, or on a grouse shooting estate owned by the Royal family, or on a grouse shooting estate that’s an accredited member of the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative (see here).
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the last known location of hen harrier Stelmaria.
As with Margot, the initial problem is that her last known location as reported by the RSPB is a bit vague – no grid reference and no named estate. The only details revealed in the RSPB press statement were:
“Stelmaria was last recorded on grouse moor a few miles north west of Ballater, Aberdeenshire on 3rd September“.
Here’s a map showing the location of Mar Lodge Estate (from where Stelmaria, and Margot, hatched earlier this summer) and the location of Ballater:
As you can see from this next map, there are a lot of grouse moors positioned “a few miles north west of Ballater“:
So once again we referred to Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website to work out which estates are situated “a few miles north west of Ballater” and we found two – Invercauld Estate and Dinnet Estate:
This map may look familiar to some of you. That’s because we used it last year when we were looking at the last known location of another satellite-tagged hen harrier, Calluna, who had also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances. Calluna vanished “on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater” on 12 August 2017, the opening day of the grouse shooting season.
In fact these grouse moors around Ballater are becoming very familiar indeed. We’ve blogged about a number of alleged and confirmed incidents as follows:
There was the discovery of an illegally shot peregrine at the Pass of Ballater in 2011, the reported coordinated hunt and subsequent shooting of an adult hen harrier at Glen Gairn on the border of Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in 2013, and then there were the illegally-set traps that were found nr Geallaig Hill on Invercauld Estate in 2016, which resulted in ‘secret action‘ being taken against a gamekeeper but no prosecution followed, and nor has SNH imposed a General Licence restriction for this incident (and SNH has refused to discuss its decision saying ‘it’s not in the public interest‘ to tell us).
Last year, as mentioned above, satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ disappeared in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in this area (here), although it’s not clear whether this was on Invercauld Estate or neighbouring Dinnet Estate and then earlier this year a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Blue T’ also ‘disappeared’ without trace on the Invercauld Estate (see here).
And now hen harrier Stelmaria has also vanished.
There’s a pretty clear pattern emerging in this area, but it seems to be one that Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Scottish Government are all refusing to see.